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If, in Seattle, a good apple costs 10 cents and a mediocre apple costs 5 cents, the cost of a good apple is equivalent to the cost of two mediocre ones.However, in New York it costs an extra 5 cents to transport an apple from Seattle, regardless of whether it is good or mediocre.The second enabler has been the matching function provided by online platforms.Traditional forms of media typically provided curated content, whereby TV broadcasters and film distributors would select what they thought consumers would like to see.Search boxes, shared content and algorithmically derived recommendations allow consumers to find and explore very specific genres, which would not have been possible for TV or film previously.
Some video-sharing platforms allocate a share of the associated advertising, within or surrounding the video, to content creators.
They would gauge their success by how many people watched a particular programme or film, but it was hard to judge how successful that was given that there was nothing to measure it against—the counterfactual of providing different content was normally not observed.
The rise of matching algorithms means that consumers can now search for and find content that matches their interests and tastes much more specifically.
While this explains how the market for cat videos works, it does not explain why we watch hours of cat videos rather than doing something more productive.
If technology has lowered the costs of production of all types of content and made it much easier to find and access any content, why, of all things, have cat videos been so successful?